It’s Children’s Mental Health Week (February 1 to 7), a time when we are asked to reflect on how challenging it is for children growing up in today’s society.
It’s particularly difficult for teenagers. We often misjudge the problems of pre-teens and teenagers as being trivial. Unrelenting social media, over-committed schedules, exhausting hormones, and unhealthy peer pressures are just some of the struggles being faced by them, making them susceptible to depression, loneliness, and anxiety as they learn to navigate the challenging world around them.
50% of those with lifetime mental health problems first experience symptoms by the age of 14.
1 in 6 children and young people have a diagnosable mental health problem.
Mindfulness is a powerful tool that offers teenagers and adolescents coping strategies for managing stressful situations and transforming difficult relationships, which can be of lasting benefit by restoring their health and balance.
As the world continues to try to make sense of Covid-19 there is no better time to arm teens with the tools and skills of Mindfulness so they can free themselves from difficult thoughts and emotions.
Five Mindfulness activities and techniques for pre-teens and teenagers
Ask your teen to write down a description of their favourite “happy place”. This could be a beach, at sea on a sailing boat or windsurf, riding a bike, a walk in the woods. How does the place make them feel? What does it smell like? What sounds can they hear? The more details they write, the better. When your teen feels stressed out, tell them to close their eyes and spend a few minutes imagining the scene. This calming activity will help their brain take a holiday from whatever is causing them anxiety of stress.
Encourage your teen to keep a gratitude journal. At the end of each day, ask them to write five things for which they are grateful. It could be the great sandwich they ate at lunchtime, the good grade they got in maths, going for a bike ride with a friend, the new lipstick they purchased from Charlotte Tilbury, the fact they “got away” with not handing in their homework! Anything they feel thankful for on that day. This simple process of thinking about the positive aspects of a day is often enough to banish any negative feelings and emotions.
Mobile devices, computers and games consoles contribute to teenage stress in numerous ways: They distract them from direct experience, social media contributes to FOMO and unhealthy comparisons and unrealistic expectations. Encourage your teen to take regular breaks from their devices. A good pattern for your teen to practice is 45minutes with technology, 30minutes without. And no technology means just that: no phone, no TV, no computer, no games console! Disconnecting from their devices will allow them to reconnect to their own personal space and experience.
If your teen is sceptical about breathing exercises then knowing this technique is popular among elite athletes and members of the special forces may make it more appealing. This exercise works by stimulating the Parasympathetic Nervous System – the opposite of the “fight or flight” response. Instead of getting you ready for action this simple exercise encourages the body to “rest and digest” by decreasing your blood pressure and slowing your heart rate. Ask your teen to breathe in for seven seconds, and out for 11. After a few repetitions, your teen should notice their thoughts become more clear and their feelings less agitated. Encourage your teen to practice this technique every time they feel stressed or sense their emotions are starting to spin out of control.
Japanese Finger Holding
This technique is based on the ancient Japanese system of rebalancing the energy through the simple act of holding one’s fingers. Each finger represents a key emotion: The thumb is connected to worry; the index finger relates to fear; the middle finger represents anger; the ring finger is associated with sadness; and the little finger is linked to self-esteem. Ask your teen to start with the left thumb. Hold it gently, wrapping their other hand completely around it for three minutes or until a pulse is felt. Repeat this process on each digit, for both the left and right hand. At the end of this process your teen should feel relaxed and more in balance. Japanese Finger Holding can be used at any time. If your teen is experiencing any of the five emotions, maybe they are worried about Covid-19, feeling sad at being in isolation, they can simply hold the corresponding finger to find some inner peace.
If your child is struggling to cope, you can direct them to Shout 85258. This is a free, confidential, 24/7 text messaging support service for anyone who is feeling sad, lonely, vulnerable or depressed. Simply text CONNECT to 85258 for 24/7 support.
Alternatively, if you are concerned about your child’s health and wellbeing, they may benefit from a consultation with one of our medical team. Call us on 01243 771455 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more details.
Article courtesy of the The Lockdown Survival Handbook.